Ian Anderson had one of the most eventful rookie seasons in MLB history. From debuting against (and defeating) the Yankees and Red Sox as a National Leaguer to starting a Game 7 that determined the NL pennant, he has experience very, very few veterans can even claim.
In his second season (note that Anderson is still considered a rookie), expect to see an even more confident and comfortable pitcher.
“One of the things I noticed looking back at video was just how much more comfortable I got,” Anderson said Monday. “The debut and the first couple games, it’s not that you’re just hoping it goes well, it just happens quick. As the season went on, I felt like I looked a lot more comfortable up there. The relationship with the catchers was getting that much better. It’s more of just the process of getting more comfortable with my pitches. I like that chess matchup of what to throw to guys and what’s going on game-to-game, at-bat to at-bat.”
The rookie numbers: Anderson had a 1.95 ERA with 41 strikeouts against 14 walks in six starts (32-1/3 innings). In the postseason, Anderson was even better, earning a 0.94 ERA over four starts. The 22-year-old surpassed even optimistic expectations.
Anderson also found that success with extra pressure on his shoulders. The Braves’ rotation was a disaster. Anderson provided desperately needed stability from Day 1. This season, Mike Soroka, who’s returning from an Achilles tear, and veterans Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly are joining Anderson and Max Fried. There should be less pressure on Anderson, though the circumstances didn’t affect him before.
“I’m excited about Ian,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He should have a lot of confidence. He should feel good about himself. The experiences he has to draw on, you can’t replicate that, what he went through. Pitching in a Game 7 of an NLCS, making his first two starts against the Yankees and the Red Sox, one of them in Boston. The things he experienced are stuff that’s invaluable in a kid’s development. It should go a long way with his confidence knowing he can compete here and be very successful here.”
Even if Anderson hits a bump in the road — he wouldn’t be the first or last young player to do so — he’s already shown how he’ll respond to adversity. His maturity, poise and consistency give the Braves every bit of confidence that he’ll be a reliable member of their 2021 rotation.
“It’s the poise and the confidence he has in everything he’s able to do,” fellow starter Max Fried said. “It’s having the trust in your stuff and your abilities that you’re good enough to go out there and compete. Then it’s just being able to execute it. When he came in the first day, he knew how to throw his game and he stuck to that game plan, and he was really good at executing that. So for him, it’s more of the same. As long as he’s executing pitches — he has unbelievable secondary stuff and great command, so when you’re able to sequence that together and attack hitters the way he does, that’s a good recipe for success.”
- First baseman and National League MVP Freddie Freeman will arrive to camp later this week after his wife, Chelsea, announced on Twitter Sunday, the birth of their third son. The team’s first full-squad workout is Tuesday.
“Not a big deal at all,” Snitker said. “Most of the time, he gets hot the first 10 days then gets bored for 10 days and gets it back going. Not worried about him at all. I’ll be honest with you, he doesn’t need to be here. I’m glad he’s doing what he’s doing right now.”
- The Braves’ spring training opener is less than a week away. They’ll face the Rays in Port Charlotte Sunday afternoon to begin their exhibition slate, which includes 29 games in 31 days. Snitker said each game will probably be seven innings until March 13.
- Snitker said lefty Tucker Davidson has looked good in camp. Davidson made his major-league debut in the 2020 regular season finale. He should get more looks this season, either as a spot starter or reliever.
- The Braves still haven’t officially signed Jake Lamb, the corner infielder who will immediately bolster their bench. They outrighted utilityman Travis Demeritte to Triple-A, briefly opening a spot on the 40-man roster before claiming outfielder Phillip Ervin off waivers Monday.
It makes sense for Demeritte to start the season in the minors, but he could help the major-league club down the line. The former Braves prospect, who rejoined the organization last week after a couple seasons with Detroit, has the versatility and pop that could make him a valuable bench contributor.
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